Hardy ferns

Hardy ferns come in many diverse forms, leaf shapes and textures - some are statuesque, some are wonderfully architectural and a few provide useful mats of groundcover where other plants struggle.

There are evergreen and deciduous types, hardy ferns for damp soils and some for dry soils such as those found under trees.


Hardy ferns can be large or small, often with elegantly arching, feathery foliage. The plants usually have a shuttlecock shape, with new growth unfurling from the centre. Deciduous types die down in winter, while evergreen and semi-evergreen have a year-round presence.


Most hardy ferns like dappled shade, as they are usually woodland plants, but there are a few types that will tolerate sunny conditions. They tend to prefer damp soil, but some will cope in dry sites especially once established. Many ferns are happy in containers.


Ferns usually dislike full sun and dry conditions. Mulch the soil with garden compost or leafmould to hold in moisture, and water new plants regularly during their first year. They don’t like to be planted too deep – keep the crown just above the soil surface.

Did you know?

Ferns are an ancient type of plant that first appeared around 360 million years ago – they don’t flower and they produce microscopic spores rather than seeds. The spore casings (sori) can be used to help identify different fern groups.

Growing guide

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